Windsor, ON – On October 17, people around the world will come together to observe International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to raise awareness and acknowledge the efforts and struggles of those facing poverty. The theme for 2019 is ‘Acting Together to Empower Children, their Families and Communities to End Poverty’, a theme that is very timely for our community as we have come together to make childhood poverty #UNIGNORABLE in Windsor-Essex County and eradicate it. In recognition of this day and all those who are facing the effects of poverty in our community, we are sharing the following message on behalf of our CEO, Lorraine Goddard, and the Board of Directors of United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County:
Childhood poverty is an #UNIGNORABLE problem in our community. The most recent Census data (2016) indicates that 1 in 5 kids in Windsor-Essex County are living in poverty – and the rate is as high as 1 in 2 kids in some local neighbourhoods.
United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County uses data to make informed decisions. We do not manipulate data to mislead the public as a fundraising ploy. We value and are committed to accuracy and transparency. With recent comments made publicly, we wish to clarify our message and expand upon our vision and the gravity of the issue before us.
There are many ways in which to track poverty – Low-Income Cut Off (LICO), Low-Income Measure (LIM) or the Market Basket Measure (MBM). Each measure has its advantages and limitations, but the fact remains – childhood poverty is a critical and unignorable issue in our community, and this is backed by concrete data. This fact is not up for debate – it is real and present in Windsor-Essex County.
Poverty is an unpleasant reality. For some, it has become the norm and has been accepted as a part of our society. But for a child who is born into a family living in poverty, that reality presents many obstacles – barriers that prevent a child from accessing opportunities and reaching their potential. Children who are born into more affluent families are far less likely to experience these obstacles.
Some barriers begin before a child is even born. An expectant mother living in low-income may not have proper nutrition or regular prenatal care. This lack of support can cause significant stress to the mother and may also impact a child’s development, leading to consequences and disadvantages from birth and continuing throughout their life span.
Other obstacles faced by families in poverty include a lack of affordable and safe housing, access to mental and physical health care and overwhelming stress on the entire family – to name a few. These complex and inter-connected barriers can impact a child’s ability to learn and develop the skills that are necessary to thrive in the 21st century economy. Without these skills and opportunities, children may become adults who struggle with poverty.
All children have potential, but every child does not have the same opportunity to fulfill it. This is called the opportunity gap. Poverty is a key driver of the opportunity gap. As a community, we need to use all the “tools in our tool box” to elimate childhood poverty, not just one or two. We need to invest in new ways of working that are equitable. Equity is important because many children are so far behind that it will take significantly more resources to get them to the starting line with their peers who do not face the same barriers.
Millions of dollars have been invested locally to treat the effects of poverty, but most of those investments do not address the root causes. Solving the problem of childhood poverty requires targeted investments to overcome barriers and create opportunities, building hope and demonstrating a belief in the potential of all our children. This will prevent children today from growing into adults who live in poverty tomorrow.
United Way – along with 49 system leading partners from all sectors have joined forces with a firm commitment to work together in a new way to unlock youth potential in our community. Our collective ‘Cradle to Career’ approach will include investments in vital solutions at the neighbourhood level; investments that consider the needs of the residents and support youth from the time they’re born until they find a career. We will also advocate for new investments in affordable housing and childcare, accessible health and community services, improved training to align with labour market needs, and modern income supports.
Poverty is not always well understood. It’s easy to make assumptions – that people are lazy and just need to ‘pull up their boot straps and get a job’; that a homeless person chose to be in the position that they are in today; that a struggling mom shouldn’t have had children if she couldn’t afford to care for them. But they are just that – assumptions. The reality is that most people want a better future for themselves and their families.
We need the whole community to come together – local, provincial and federal governments, private business, labour, public and not-for profit sectors – to eliminate childhood poverty. Poverty has no place in a resource-rich country like Canada and in a compassionate community like Windsor-Essex County. Our collective failure to eliminate childhood poverty is socially and economically unacceptable.
We can easily become overwhelmed by the complexity of this issue. United Way is committed to making childhood poverty unignorable in our community and to take new action to ensure no child is left behind. One child living in poverty is too many. Thousands of children living in poverty is #UNIGNORABLE.
We will be launching a blog in the coming months to deepen our understanding of the issues and explore solutions for the future of our community – and more importantly, for the future of all our children.
Media Contact: Stephanie Perta, Vice-President, Marketing & Communications
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